Are you looking for the best things to do in Lyon? This guide will show you what to do in Lyon, France… and nearby!
Lyon has so much to offer visitors – from world-class food to scenic day trips.
This guide covers the top Lyon attractions and activities for any traveler!
Did we miss any of the best places to visit in Lyon? Let us know in the comments!
In this post...
Best Lyon Tours (to Maximize Your Time!)
If you’re looking for something more organized when in Lyon and the surrounding area, here are some awesome Lyon tours you should check out.
These tours will help you maximize your time, which is especially important if you only have a short amount of time in the city! We listed a variety so that you can pick which one is most suitable for you (and many include multiple places!):
- Vieux Lyon 4-Hour Food Tasting Tour (I did this tour and loved it!)
- Beaujolais Wine Tasting Trip from Lyon (recommended for wine lovers)
- City Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Tour (top rated for getting around and seeing the main sites!)
- Lyon Pass: Public Transport & More Than 40 Attractions (great money-saver option)
- City Segway Tour with a Local Guide
Best Things to Do in Lyon
1. Walk the Streets of Vieux Lyon
Vieux Lyon is situated between the Fourvière hill and the river Saône. It is known for its narrow Renaissance alleyways and traboules.
The traboules, or passageways, allowed locals to pass from street to street without leaving the building, and was essentially done discreetly.
You can visit some of these traboules yourself, although most have been closed off today to prevent traffic.
There are numerous picturesque inner courtyards that depict the previous wealth that inhabited the region.
Lyon was a trade fair town and was the center of Europe’s silk production.
In Saint-Paul, which is to the north, you will find the historic homes and district of the upper middle class, as well as the financial and commercial center. Large families of merchants and bankers settled here.
Lyon is considered to be the gastronomic capital of France, so head over to Rue du Bœuf for Michelin-starred restaurants. The street also has designer outlets for shopping!
2. Visit the Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica
The Romans actually chose the hill of Fourvière in 43 BC, which the French name derives from the original Latin, “Forum Vetus” meaning ‘old forum.’
The construction of the iconic cathedral only began in 1872 and was designed by Pierre Bossan and supervised by his disciple Louis Sainte-Marie-Perrin after his passing.
If you include the towers, the height of the basilica reaches 48 meters; its width is 35 meters and its length reaches 86 meters.
The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and thus the interior design is decorated with mosaics and motifs that depict her significance to France and its relationship with Christianity.
Her overproportioned golden bronze statue looks over the entire city of Lyon, as does the bronze statue of an angel with a gleaming spear.
The stained-glass windows and marble of the interior highlight the rich greens and blues of the ceiling frescoes, and statues of angels above the row of columns.
Take a walk outside the church so you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view over Lyon.
Address: 8 Pl. de Fourvière, 69005 Lyon
3. Check Out the Traboules of Lyon
In Vieux Lyon, you can find a network of shortcuts taking you from street to street without actually taking you outside.
These passageways are called traboules, and in Lyon, there are 400 traboules with a mysterious and colorful past, however, only 40 of them are open today.
Every traboule varies in style: with curved or spiral staircases, Renaissance arches or vaulted ceilings, and are all painted in a pastel color.
These passageways were created to prevent the exhausting detours in Vieux Lyon’s winding streets and grant quick access to the river for water.
You can experience a tour of the Canut workshops and their respective traboules at the Place de la Croix-Rousse. For the Vieux-Lyon traboules, head over to its metro station.
Signs have been placed with a lion’s head for the former and a bronze shield for the latter in order to help you navigate the paths.
Between 54 Rue Saint-Jean and 27 Rue du Bœuf, you’ll find the longest traboule in town. Take an informative tour or discover them yourself!
4. Wander the Musée Lumière
Musée Lumière or Institut Lumière is more than just a film museum – it’s a library, family villa, park, factory, and documentation center on the significant contributions of the Lumière brothers that involved cinematography, photography, and a multitude of other inventions.
The villa that houses these exhibitions is actually the home of Antoine, the father of the two famous brother-inventors Auguste and Louis.
The Château Lumière has four levels, each with its own projection and interactive showcases.
Throughout your tour of the home, you’ll find displays detailing the roles of each brother in their application of ingenuity on specific projects, and the significant one had on the other and together in their scientific and historical journey.
Louis Lumière is accredited with the invention of the Cinematograph in 1895.
The first film was made in the garden, and a mini-cinema called “Le Hangar” is installed in the garden also for additional viewing.
The villa also functions as a factory manufacturing photographic plates, the largest of its kind in all of Europe.
Address: 25 Rue du Premier Film, 69008 Lyon
5. Stop by Cathedral Saint-Jean
In Vieux Lyon, you’ll find the three embellished ports with huge oak doors amongst cobbled streets.
The cathedral is in the middle of the second largest Renaissance area in Europe and is in Lyon’s 5th district along the right bank of the Saône river.
Cathedral Saint-Jean is a charming medley of Roman and Gothic styles, with a 16th-century astronomical clock inside and stained-glass windows dating back to the 12th century depicting a variety of scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
The construction of the cathedral took more than three centuries to finish, from 1175 to 1480 and is easily one of the most significant structures and symbols of Lyon.
The church’s actual name is “la primatiale Saint-Jean-Baptiste-et-Saint-Étienne” because
Lyon had judicial supremacy over the main archbishops of France as the Primate of All the Gauls.
The fascinating clock inside the tracks is also a religious calendar in addition to being a perpetual clock. It calculates all saints’ days and the position of the stars above the city.
Address: Pl. Saint-Jean, 69005 Lyon
6. Peruse Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
In the center of the Presqu’ile in Cordeliers sits Lyon’s first indoor food market.
It was opened in 1859 to honor Lyon’s dedication to gastronomy and has since then been hosting local vendors and businesses in its recently renovated 13,000-square-meter structure.
The master chef Paul Bocuse added his name to the title of the market, enhancing the already prestigious reputation of the market, as one of the finest places for ingredients, produce, and gastronomical delicacies, anywhere.
There are over 48 vendors elegantly organized throughout the hall with a range of specialties, such as La Mère Richard, a highly rated cheese shop, the Cave Fac&Spera, known for its wine and liquor, and the authentic Lyonnaise restaurant, Chez Les Gones.
Lyon’s known as the gastronomic capital of France for many reasons and one of them is the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse.
You’ll find a wonderful variety of high-quality delicacies and food, all within the same building. It is Lyon’s first indoor food market and is located in the center of the Presqu’ile in Cordeliers.
The building itself is renovated, and the structure ranges to a size of 13,000 square meters.
It was opened in 1859 to honor Lyon’s dedication to gastronomy, and when master chef Paul Bocuse added his name to the title of the market, he could only augment the grandeur and prestige of the market.
Find the finest produce, ingredients, and gastronomical delicacies, at each of the 48 vendors organized inside.
Throughout the hall, you’ll come across everything from specialty cheese shops, pastry shops, wine shops, and meat shops, to a variety of dining establishments, such as the authentic Lyonnaise restaurant, Chez Les Gones.
Head over to Cave Fac&Spera for some wine, and then to La Mère Richard for high-quality cheese!
Address: 102 Cr Lafayette F, 69003 Lyon
7. Relax in Parc de la Tête d’Or
One of the largest urban parks in France sits in the 6th arrondissement of Northern Lyon.
It covers over 105 hectares and includes four rose gardens, a botanical garden, a velodrome, numerous greenhouses hosting plants and trees from all over the world, an equestrian facility, a mini-gold station, a zoo, a mini-train, and statues dispersed throughout the park in addition to its stunning landscape.
The expansive terrain is enjoyed by joggers and cyclists, and the crystal clear lake can be enjoyed with a boat during the summer months.
The options are endless at Parc de la Tête d’Or: take a leisurely stroll around the park and appreciate the many amenities and villas lining the fences between the entrances; picnic on the vast green space and choose a view out of many; take the children to the playground, where they can sit on the carousel and other fun rides!
Enjoy lunch, a snack, or chat over some coffee and crepes at the cafes and vendors overlooking the picturesque lake.
8. Take a Tour of the Cinema and Miniature Museum
In Lyon’s Renaissance district sits the Cinema and Miniature Museum, a testimony to Lyon’s status as the birthplace of cinema.
The museum features displays and presentations on the special effects used in films, as well as the art of miniatures.
This museum is the only one of its kind all throughout Europe, and its collections emphasize the techniques used in films prior to the rise of digital filmmaking and the use of the software.
Inside, you’ll discover models of virtually everything and anything under the sun: from robots, monsters, and mythological characters, to costumes of historical figures and superheroes, prostheses, animatronics, as well as miniatures carefully crafted by the hands of the artist and founder of the museum, Dan Ohlmann.
Take a tour of his workshop in addition to the museum. There are 120 miniature scenes produced by Ohlmann and over 450 film props from legendary films that created the sought-after special effects of its time.
These two unique collections showcase the techniques used by leading film studios.
Address: 60 Rue Saint-Jean, 69005 Lyon
9. Explore the La Croix Rousse Neighborhood
Lyon was Europe’s silk city, and its La Croix-Rousse district was where the silk manufacturers were located. Its ascending hillside is layered with a neighborhood of tiered buildings.
The textile industry and the canuts, or silk workers, as the premier industry of the city, and thus there is a load of history to discover.
Just simply walking through the area will grant you the opportunity to discover the city’s true essence and how its cultural heritage today has been maintained with its stairwells, traboules, and numerous buildings housing weaving looms.
The slopes shelter the lifestyle of the district, with many boutiques and workshops of silk ready for you to check out on the eastern part of the quarter near the Rhône.
The plateau of the district is bordered by the Rhône and the Saône rivers, and its Place de la Croix-Rousse is the main square on the plateau.
One of the largest and liveliest outdoor food markets in the city is in La Croix-Rousse and is open every day except Monday.
10. Take a Guided Food Tour in the Old Town
Explore the culinary history of Lyon in its oldest district over a span of 4 hours.
Take secret passageways through the traboules and discover some of the best highlights of the Vieux Lyon district whilst sampling authentic Lyonnais cuisine.
Your local guide will introduce you to local food heroes, who in which will explain their creations and the inspiration behind them.
There are 5 different tasting stops and 14 different dishes to try out on this tour which will fulfill the equivalent of lunch. You can read my review of the food tour in Lyon here.
As you explore the medieval streets and pass Vieux Lyon’s major sites, such as the Cathedral of Saint Jean, you’ll learn about the local cuisine and the best places to check out for an authentic experience outside of the tourist traps.
Marvel at the hidden courtyards in the traboules you’ll be passing through whilst nibbling on your samples and admire the terracotta-tiled roofs of the pastel-colored district.
Meet your guide at the front of the statue of Monseigneur Lavarenne and depart for your food tour!
11. Admire the Amphitheater of the Three Gauls
Take a seat on the steps of the Amphitheater and travel back in time to Roman Gaul. At the foot of the hill of La Croix-Rousse, shows and circus games were hosted.
It was built in 19 AD above the old Gallic town of Condate, and was expanded a century later by decree of Emperor Hadrian to reach the measurements of 147 by 120 meters.
The historic monument is more than entertainment, however. Representatives of the various 60 Gallic nations met at the theater for important diplomatic reasons, such as pledging fealty to Rome and Emperor Augustus, every year around the federal altar.
The Amphiteather is most known for the persecution of Sainte-Blandine and Saint Irénée, the martyrs of the first Christians of Gaul, who perished in the theater.
Saint Irénée is actually a pioneer that influenced Roman Gaul’s conversion to Christianity. It was unearthed in 1834 and excavated in the 1860s during construction work.
Today, it has been closed off and can only be observed from around its fences.
12. Wander the Place Bellecour
Place Bellecour is right in the heart of Lyon, is the largest pedestrian square in Europe, and is the third biggest square in France. It is a must for every Lyon itinerary!
The square is nestled in the central most focal point of the peninsula between the Saône and the Rhône in the 2nd arrondissement, and all distances in the city are counted from this square.
There are two pavilions in it: one housing the tourist information office and the other, an art gallery.
Lyon’s shopping streets are lined on the square, with the four major streets leading directly to other essential squares of the city. In the middle of Place Bellecour stands the equestrian statue of Louis XIV.
In the south of the square, there are two fountains in the midst of trees and lush greenery, forming a complementary park.
Place Bellecour is a center of life all throughout the day and night; during the day, you’ll find locals shopping and socializing over their lunch, and in the evening, you’ll see everyone gathering in the square and preparing for the city’s nightlife.
13. See the Exhibitions at La Maison de Canuts
Check out a collection of silk created, woven, dyed, printed, and made in France all at La Maison de Canuts.
The venue is both a workshop and a museum and is located on the Croix-Rousse plateau, the historic district of the silk weavers.
The permanent exhibition elaborates on the origin of silk, which was discovered 5,000 years ago, explains the silkworm cycle, and explains the manufacturing process of gold and silver threads.
Learn about the history of the silk weavers, their impact on the city, and the significance of the silk industry in Lyon and how it affected Europe.
The exhibits also give details on the organization of the Lyonnaise fabric, the invention of Jacquard, as well as the revolts of the canuts of 1831 and 1834.
There are numerous generations worth of silk creations showcased all throughout the venue, dating back to the 16th century.
Discover the invention of the Jacquard by watching demonstrations of weaving on a hand loom in the workshop. Inquire about additional tours through the traboules used by the Canuts.
Address: 10 Rue d’Ivry, 69004 Lyon
14. Try a Salade Lyonnaise at Le Poêlon d’Or
Taste traditional Lyonnaise cuisine at Le Poêlon d’Or, a dining establishment boasting to perpetuate the culinary tradition of Lyonnaise mothers at their restaurant.
The restaurant and its personnel guarantee quality and tradition on both their menu and their venue of wooden furnishings.
Their century-old venue is even listed as a French heritage site, and was awarded the “Best Cork Winner” of the 2017 “Gastronomy and Wine Trophy.”
The homemade family menu includes lunch combinations of starter, main course, and dessert for as cheap as 25€!
Take a gastronomic excursion by starting off with a Salad Lyonnaise, Cervelle des Canuts with herbs and smoked duck breast, or Gravlax salmon with potato waffles!
Enter the main course with the Traditional Lyon Quenelle of Pike au Gratin of two variations, one with crayfish sauce, and the other with Bechamel sauce and white mushrooms.
The pan-fried veal sweetbread and mashed potatoes with cream and morels mushroom is another popular option! For homemade desserts, there is the classic praline pie and the Coupe Mont Blanc.
Address: 29 Rue des Remparts d’Ainay, 69002 Lyon
15. Enjoy a Beaujolais Wine Tasting Half-day Trip
Embark on a half-day gourmet wine-tasting tour in the Southern Beaujolais that will simultaneously show the highlights of the picturesque region.
Learn about the history of the region with each sip as you walk amongst the charming little golden stone villages and enjoy one of the top wine tours from Lyon.
The villages and hilly landscape are often compared to that of Tuscany, and you’ll be able to stroll through the medieval village of Oingt to experience this claim firsthand.
As you learn about the history of the Beaujolais, you’ll be sampling numerous wineries’ takes on its most notable wine, the Beaujolais Nouveau.
Learn about the notion of ‘Terroir’ as you head over to family wineries and discover the secret of French wine-making. Enjoy a traditional silk worker’s breakfast called a “machon.”
This half-day tour is a quick and excellent opportunity to learn about and see the Beaujolais region whilst tasting its delicacies in a fun and friendly ambiance. And, it’s so close to Lyon!
Taste over a dozen wines, from white wines, to rose and red wines, with croissants, cheeses, and other bread.
16. Explore the Presqu’île
Presqu’île is the central part of Lyon and thus the heart of the city.
It is nestled between the Rhône and the Saône Rivers, and extends from the north at the foot of the Croix-Rousse hill all the way to the meeting of the rivers in the south.
The first and second arrondissement are located in this “almost island” and includes the largest pedestrian square in Europe – Place Bellecour – which is lined with commercial streets full of luxury boutiques, top restaurants, theaters, and cultural venues.
Théâtre Des Célestins is a remarkable Baroque building you can’t miss! Nearby is Place des Terreaux, which is bordered by the Hôtel de Ville and the Musée des Beaux-arts with the iconic Bartholdi Fountain monument at its center.
It is a popular place to sit, socialize and get drinks.
Not too far is the Grand Hôtel-Dieu, a stunning neoclassical building with more shopping, jaw-dropping accommodation, and numerous bars popular in Lyon’s nightlife, including the luxurious Le Dôme.
Head farther south into the 2nd arrondissement toward Perrache and La Confluence.
17. Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts
Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts is one of the largest art museums in France, and the gorgeous Renaissance building itself was actually originally a 17th-century Benedictine abbey.
The museum is the most visited in the region, and is nicknamed the “Little Louvre.”
The collection of fine art on display is one of the largest in Europe, boasting artwork from prominent artists such as Rubens, Véronèse, Rembrandt, Géricault, Poussin, Delacroix, and Gauguin.
Additionally, there are statues, artifacts, antiques, and artwork dating from antiquity, such as those of ancient Egypt with Egyptian sarcophaguses and the gates of Ptolemy, as well as from the Near East.
There are sculptures on the ground floor from the Medieval era and the Renaissance with stuccos of the old baroque refectory of the abbey.
In the municipal garden, you’ll find numerous 19th-century statues all throughout. Additionally, there are collections of coins and medallions.
The colorful courtyard at the entrance of the museum is a popular place amongst locals to sit, socialize, and rest throughout the day.
Address: 20 Pl. des Terreaux, 69001 Lyon
18. Photograph the Opera National de Lyon
Opera National de Lyon is a classical building with a contemporary accent located at Place de la Comédie.
The semi-cylindrical dome or roof of windows is illuminated at night with red lights, and the statues guarding it and looking down at the square actually has one of the popular bars of Lyon right behind it.
The rooftop bar, Les Muses, is on the seventh floor of the Opera National de Lyon and offers marvelous views of the city rooftops and the Fourvière hill.
Take a guided tour of the building to exhibit the historical interior design of the neo-classical venue. You’ll catch a vibrant medley of ceiling frescoes depicting classical motifs and golden engravings of flowers, faces, and borders.
The opera house has a website that provides the schedule of performances held throughout the upcoming season.
There is everything from operas, solo performances, concerts of chamber performances and choral performances, of course, the Lyon Opera Ballet.
The square outside the opera is often sprinkled with locals sitting on the steps of the venue.
Address: 1 Pl. de la Comédie, 69001 Lyon
19. Take Your Family to Walibi Rhône-Alpes Amusement Park
Located in the commune of Les Avenières is the largest theme park of the Rhône-Alpes region, Walibi Rhône-Alpes. It contains more than 33 rides over an expanded area of 35 hectares.
It’s a popular place to take the kids, and if you purchase tickets at least 3 days before your planned visit, you will be able to benefit from a discount.
Some of the most popular rides at Walibi that are more enjoyable for the adult audience include the Mystic, Timber, Generator, Le Totem, Woodstock Express, Airboat, Le Galion, and Hurricane.
For more family-friendly attractions for riding together, head over to the Gold River, La Coccinelle, Bambooz River, Melody Road, Dock’N Roll, Tiki Academy, and Les Plongeurs de L’Extreme.
For younger children, the Concert’O, Volt-O-Vent, Les P’Tits Chaudrons, Le Petit Vapeur, Balloon Race, Wab Band Tour, and the numerous variety of Aire de Jeux, such as the Explorer Adventure, Festival City, and Exotic Island for 3-6 and 7-12 years.
There are exciting restaurants at the park, including the Jazz Sugar Club and Golden Burger.
Address: 1380 Rte de la Corneille, 38630 Les Avenières Veyrins-Thuellin
20. Rest Your Feet on a Sightseeing Cruise
This sightseeing cruise in Lyon is a great way to be able to see the city’s most notable landmarks and monuments.
The cruise lasts 2.5 hours and includes a 3-course meal.
Some of the delicious French cuisines that you will be served on board includes duck, dab fillet, poultry tarts, and praline tarts.
While indulging in this gourmet meal, you will be able to learn more about Lyon’s most famous sights via informative commentary. The tour is available in French or English.
21. See the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière
A peek into the Gallo-Roman cultural past of Lyon by visiting the Lugdunum in the hills of Fourvière.
The concrete theater highlighted by the lush landscape of the site is easy to miss as it blends perfectly with the complementary nature of the slopes.
Inside, you will find one of the finest archaeological collections in France. From prehistoric times to the prevalence of Christianity, the Lugdunum museum presents displays of the ancient metropolis and its inhabitants’ lifestyle, ranging from urban layouts and culture, to circus games, trade systems, army, and currencies.
The most noteworthy sights are the Mosaic, which visitors can freely walk on, the theater, the Coligny calendar, and the various Celtic treasures dispersed throughout the museum’s interior.
Address: 17 Rue Cleberg, 69005 Lyon
22. Rejuvenate at Grand Parc Miribel Jonage
Grand Parc Miribel Jonage is one of the largest peri-urban natural parks in Europe. It consists of 2,200 hectares of natural park and 3000 hectares of undeveloped land. Forests make up 850 hectares of the land.
There are hiking and mountain biking circuits, a golf course, as well as a 350-hectare lake with numerous beaches.
The nature reserve is home to more than 1,000 species of animals and plants, including 800 plants with over 33 types of wild orchids, 25 mammal species, and 230 bird species.
The nature discovery trails and marked paths are just the beginning of enjoying the park. There are numerous other sporting activities available, including climbing, trampolining, mountain biking, rollerblading, tennis, table tennis, badminton, golfing, and even archery.
There are rope bridges that lead to a 212-meter descent above Eaux Bleues Lake, in which you can rent sailing boats, catamarans, small boats, row boats, canoes, surfboards, or even go windsurfing on.
Additionally, there are riding centers that provide horse-drawn carriage rides during the summer.
Things to Do in Lyon (On a Map!)
Where to Stay in Lyon
If you’re looking for the best accommodation in Lyon, here are some of our top picks!
Did we miss any of the best things to do in Lyon? Let us know your favorite Lyon landmarks and places in the comments!
More Lyon Travel Guides
- Best Lyon wine tours
- 2 days in Lyon
- Lyon Airport to city
- Food tour of Lyon
- Best day trips from Lyon
- Lyon in winter
Pin this Lyon Things to Do Guide
Aram is a travel blogger and writer from Armenia who spends his time between Spain and his home country. He is passionate about music and football (the European kind) and covers a lot of Western European destinations on the blog. Aram is a laidback traveler who enjoys meeting new people and finding the best food in each city that he visits (hence his frequent trips to France, Italy, and Greece!). He has been featured in (or written for) Forbes, BBC, The Guardian, Fodor’s Travel, and more.